The official report on Carlos Boozer was released yesterday, and the news is not promising for the second-ranked Blue Devils.
As was suspected immediately following Duke's loss to 16th-ranked Maryland Tuesday, Boozer sustained at least a mild fracture to his right foot during the second half and he will not play Sunday against North Carolina nor in any of Duke's ACC tournament games. Mike Krzyzewski said he is optimistic that his starting center can return for the NCAA tournament, but no determination on that possibility will be made until after the March 11 conclusion of the ACC tournament.
Neither Boozer nor Duke's medical staff were made available for comment yesterday, but the recovery should be quicker than the last two times Blue Devil centers have been stricken with similar injuries.
According to the official statement, Boozer fractured the third metatarsal in his right foot, marking the third time in the past four seasons that a Duke center has suffered a broken metatarsal. Three years ago, then-freshman Elton Brand shattered the fifth metatarsal in his left foot, forcing him to the sidelines for eight weeks. Last season, Boozer sustained the exact same injury while playing in a pickup game; he missed about eight weeks of practice but returned for the first game of the season.
Unlike injuries to the first or fifth metatarsals, which are more frequent and almost always require a long healing period, mild fractures of the third metatarsal have a good chance for a speedy recovery. Had Boozer suffered a clean break like Brand did early in the 1997-98 campaign, his season would have undoubtedly ended in Cameron Tuesday night. Nonetheless, 10 days are typically needed for X-rays to clearly identify hairline fractures to metatarsals, which means that no new information is expected for at least another week, when the Blue Devils will be in Atlanta fighting for a third-straight ACC tournament championship. At that point, an evaluation of the X-rays will likely determine the immediate playing future of Duke's 6-foot-9, 270-pound sophomore.
The ramifications of the medical staff being unable to clear Boozer-the only center who has received consistently significant minutes-before the NCAA tournament have not been lost on basketball analysts.
"The loss of Carlos Boozer is unbelievable this late in the season," Dick Vitale wrote in an online column for ESPN.com. "The one guy the Blue Devils couldn't afford to lose was Boozer on the interior."
Krzyzewski and the rest of the basketball program did not give any indication as to how the loss of Boozer will affect Duke's starting lineup in the coming weeks.
Regardless of whether sixth-man Chris Duhon or one of Duke's backup centers receives the starting nod, Casey Sanders and Matt Christensen will have to make more tangible contributions than they did during the loss to Maryland Tuesday. Against the Terrapins, Sanders and Christensen combined for zero points and four rebounds in only six minutes, during which time they managed to collect an astonishing five personal fouls. Neither player was reinserted into the lineup after Boozer left the game with roughly 11 minutes remaining.
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